Education answer lies in priority shift, not more funding

The school and community leaders who met last week in a summit focused on funding for public schools got their message half correct.

Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and leader of the summit, said both Pennsylvania and the nation are behind in funding and training of skilled laborers through career and technical schools.

We could not agree more.

For the past five decades, a four-year college education in some sort of professional field has gained the lion’s share of post-high school emphasis among education leaders and parents.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Except that it does not fit the skill set of every youngster. For those proficient in mechanical and skilled labor, there has not been enough attention in terms of making lessons and training available to them. This area has a pretty strong technician career training setup, but that’s not the rule nationwide.

A stronger focus on technical education is overdue. But the solution is not simply more state funding. This state already is in the top five in the nation in its per-pupil public school funding allocation. In our view, it’s unfair to say the state is shortchanging public schools with its education funding.

What’s needed is a change in the way the public education funding pie is sliced. Education leaders locally and statewide need to take a hard, practical look at where the work force opportunities of the future lie and evaluate whether the public school system instructional focus is matching the opportunity pie.

The answer probably lies more in adjusting to the realities of today than in simply plowing more money – which the state does not have – into public education.

Don’t take this view to be anti-education.

The purpose of public education is to train every youngster for a viable future. If the existing priorities don’t shift significantly, all the funding in the world won’t meet the mission.